Saturday, 19 November 2011

Nanowrimo Break: Inception and All Your Settings

It may not be a surprise to regular readers that I sort of have a thing for Inception. I have a shout out tag for Inception and this blog is not about a.) film making b.) suits or c.) Tom Hardy. I also occasionally mention my Inception view count, which has now gotten a little confusing as I own it on dvd, digital copy on my computer and my phone. Some people take a one minute break by viewing photos of loved ones, I like to watch a little Inception. Make of that what you will.

Anyway, this is not about my undying love for Joseph Gordon-Levitt in zero gravity or Leonardo DiCaprio's strut, but rather a study in setting. No, not the awesome hotel decor or the matchy-matchy bad guys wearing white in the snow level. This is about using all the bits of your setting to create a world that works for you while you entice the reader to continue reading your work.

We first see setting the second the movie opens, but seriously, the first time we truly interact with setting is when Mal mentions "Postwar British painters". She refers to the artwork in the dream hotel and hey! It's by Francis Bacon. That's not the cool part. That is an easy way to engage setting - and by engage I mean draw the audience's eye toward it. Now for people who hear Postwar and British and Painter, it's a detail. It's dialogue that says she knows what she's talking about. To people who hear that and see the painting and think Francis Bacon, that's a little reach out and say hello to the audience members in the know. We like to feel smart. Some of us may use Google to get there, but we become members of a special club when we figure it out.

That throwaway line, by the way, tells us a lot about Mal. She can spot a postwar British painter for one thing. Now - SPOILER - for the 0.01% of you who haven't seen or possibly heard of Inception, Mal is a figment in Cobb's head. What does that tell us about what Cobb knows?

Anyway, the point of being in people's heads is that we aren't supposed to be there and so the projections in other peoples' heads try to uncover you and then remove you from the landscape, by tearing you limb from limb if they have to. Knowing this, watch the scene where Cobb begins to convince Fisher that something is wrong while he sits at the bar surrounded by rich older people. At one point there is a sound so out of tune with the ambience of the bar that everyone pays attention. Can you imagine that older woman with the shawl and the white hair with blood staining her mouth, fingers curled into claws?

You can now.

********************************And NOW****************************************


I wrote the above about halfway through November and then remembered that I was writing a novel. I was also municipal liaising my region, with roughly 400 people (on paper) and got a little caught up in my newfound productive writing life.

Here we are in the year the world ends (see previously 2000, 1999, and 1997 according to the World Weekly News) and I am a novel richer and half a blog post poorer.

It happens sometimes that you come back to something you were writing in a different head space, physical space, you-space and you realize - hey! This was pretty good! I wonder what happens next. And then you totally blank.

I have no idea where the rest of the post was going. I do, however, know what I would like to say now, 55,000 words later, about scenery and setting and how different and necessary the two are to everything in your story and how your audience perceives your world.

I've been using setting and scenery interchangeably in my previous posts (and if I haven't, I've been doing it in my head) but they really are quite different. Scenery is a necessary part of setting but setting encompasses scenery. Scenery is the vase on the mantelpiece and the stone setting in the hearth and the rich yet threadbare rug under your feet. Setting is the opulent sitting room gone slightly to seed in a story about an old rich family that has possessed wealth so long they have forgotten they have it. You know the type, the ones who wear t-shirts and drive beamers and buy tens of thousands of dollars of diamonds just to say it's Tuesday, I love you.

Take away some of those details and they become nouveau riche, conscientious of what they have and how much they have to show it to the world. Take away other details and they become misers. Suddenly your story is about something else entirely.

The settings may be the easiest to describe later when you're talking about that book you just read, but it's the scenery that makes it so memorable. Scenery, the bangles, the gun, the hidden corpse, the missing figurine on the bookshelf, the details give your story a why without you having to come right out and beat your reader over the head with what you're trying to say.

Getting back to my minor obsession with Inception, let's look at Arthur. He's gorgeous. And now, analytically, let's look at what says competent. It's the slicked back hair, the suits, the fashion forward little touches, the flashy fighting style, and the way he remains calm under any kind of pressure, with or without gravity.

Ariadne, on the other hand, screams college student. If we hadn't met her first in a college, we would quickly place her there in the Inception special anniversary edition paper doll playbook (I would totally buy that, wouldn't you?). There's the brash manner of speaking, the curiosity with none of the temperance borne of what some might call maturity but what we can also call the knowledge of consequence from touching a hot stove. She hasn't had that curiosity slapped down yet. She wears those scarves and coats with rolled up sleeves, stands slightly to the side and watches and learns while the others move.

The settings of Inception and the personal scenery of each of the characters (including where they stand in relation to one another...I guess I have another rewatching to do) require all those little details and more - leave nothing to chance. Your dialogue, character descriptions, workspaces and living spaces advance the reader's understanding of what you are trying to say in your story. Are you talking about money? Love? Evil and our interactions when faced with such a thing?

Now you (and I) get to shave away every detail that doesn't have to do with cementing your answer to the question you are discussing in your work, right down to how your character eats lunch and where and why.

Yay, scenery!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Nanowrimo Break: Sleepless and Bitty Details

Sleepless by Charlie Huston is one of those near future science fiction things you hear about but never realized exists until you hold it in your hands. It's detailed.

Most of the time when someone says 'detailed' he means 'they talked about a space ship a lot and maybe there was a character and stuff happened.' Or maybe the author dedicated forty pages on fashion styles to explain why the protagonist took that parasol with those boots.

Sleepless is detailed in that every part of the world - the WOW game stand-in, the human bombs, the devastating disease - are effortlessly referenced in sentences and phrases before Huston dedicates entire scenes to explaining just what the hell is going on. The background details are such a part of the world that his characters live these pieces of science fiction and the reader can breathe it all in without pausing to admire the damn spaceship for pages on end. Think of the last time you had a fight with a friend on a message board and tried to explain to someone (to whom message boards did not exist) how you had trouble communicating in real time. The important part of the story you are telling this person is not that you have to wait minutes, hours, or days to get the last-last word in, but that you are having an argument with a friend and the bastard won't lay down and accept defeat in light of your brilliance. In between recounting witty repartee, you still have to explain message boards. That's the importance of detail.

As I Nano (only four thousand words behind, it's okay, that's a weekend marathoner, no problem) I have to keep detail in mind because while it's tempting to boost a word count with nonsense like two thousand words of what color sneakers my character has on, the bits I get to keep later while Nanoedmo'ing (National Novel Editing Month) are the pieces that advance the story while maintaining a careful snare around the reader's attention.

If you have a minute in between typing madly and procrastinating just as madly, give Sleepless a try. It's science fiction without the spaceships and it's a brilliant apocalypse that will make you wonder about the tiny things in life. And if near future science fiction can't make you doubt every minuscule interaction in your life with a tiny shake of fear, it's obviously not trying hard enough.

Another detailed series I've always enjoyed are the Company novels by Kage Baker. She takes history and future with the same finesse, and while she shines with historical detail I'll admit my favorite of the series is Graveyard Games where she really starts telling us about her world's terrifying future.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Nanowrimo Break: Handwavium and Transitions

John Connolly's Every Dead Thing is a little rough, and one of the most delightfully gory mysteries I've torn through in a long while. For someone who usually devours horror movies and peppers her sci-fi diet with The Cat Who... Every Dead Thing was a welcome respite. Though it suffers from the tragic past hero, it has an intriguing (and conveniently helpful) secondary cast of an assassin and master thief, Every Dead Thing moves quickly through sometimes not quite explained transitions. We are at point A, now we are at Point B, now we see my old friend. Now my old friend is dead, look at my dead old friend, meticulously dissected atop his equally dead wife in a creepy yet totally memorable scene.

Anyway, this is one of those books (and series) I return to when I want some handwavium. My transitions usually suffer from real-worldism, where we actually have to walk out to the car, and open the door, and fiddle with our keys. In book world, we are simply driving. Last page we were in San Francisco, and now we are in Las Vegas! Did we mean to be in Las Vegas? Who knows? Who cares! Look at the pretty lights!

Writing 50,000 words in 30 days means taking some big leaps of faith in terms of travel, changing groups of people, and on occasion, surprise action scenes. Writing at any point can use a little handwavium, so long as your reader can handle a little handwavium. Remember suspension of disbelief, and the value of your reader coming back for the sequel.

Something I find helps is sitting for a few minutes and asking myself what is absolutely necessary to get this message across? Do I need to show us on the road? Do I need to explain the ninja? Can we just have the evil guy over here, suddenly? Would that be really cool? When I strip the scenes down to the absolutes, it makes the writing go faster, the reading, and at times, the head scratching. Anyway, if "The Most Terrifying Thriller Since Silence Of The Lambs" (see cover above) is not your slice of pie, try Jim Butcher's Dresdenfiles. For some reason, I have Small Favor listed on my outline for this post, so I suppose it must be an example of handwavium. I recommend the whole series, just so you too can spend all of White Knight with a big fan-service grin on your face.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Nanowrimo Prep: Breaking (Almost) All the Rules

There are 8 rules for writing.

There are only 7 plots in the whole wide world.

There are 36 plots.

There is only 1 rule for writing.^

You have to write fast. You have to write slow. You have to plot first. You have burn on pure creativity. You must structure your story. You must begin at the beginning.

After a few years of attending talks and workshops and listening to people who also wrote but did not write like me, I realized everyone follows their rules. They just forget to tell you that everyone has their own set of rules that they have cobbled together from their trusted mentors and peers and sources which are totally different from yours.

Once you look at all these different rule sets a pattern emerges where you see this person's set of rules is that person's wriggle room, and that person's set of rules leaves little spaces for this person's rules to fit between. Together they make a series of contradictions that function smoothly with only a few conjunctions to smooth the way.

You have to write fast and (some days) you have to write slow.

You have to plot first or you have to burn on pure creativity.

You must structure your story but you must begin at the beginning. So what if your structure doesn't begin with the beginning?

Nanowrimo has one rule: Don't look back!

Like speed limits, it's a guideline, and like the rules above, it works best in conjunction with your pre-existing personal writing rules.

Let's talk about speed limits for a minute. There are some speed limits you obey without questions because of the unstated "or else". I always obey the speed limit that says "25 mph on this twisty mountain road...or else you might die" and "30mph in this residential area...or else you might kill someone". That sentence started with "I" for a reason, because you might trust yourself on mountain roads or trust your breaks or distrust driving through gorges...

My writing rules were pretty set before I did Nanowrimo the first time. And they were pretty set right after that first hellish month of approximately 12,000 grueling words that had been over-plotted and under-developed. I planned the life right out of my characters and spent my first word war paralyzed with writer's block.

My writing output before and after Nano was about the same, which is to say, slim to none.

The second time I tried Nanowrimo, I decided to follow the 1 rule and throw everything else out the window. I didn't look back. Some days I wrote in complete silence, some days I created careful playlists to evoke moods and characters. Some days I looked at my outline and some days I said to hell with it and plowed onward. Some weeks I went to the write-ins and sat with fellow writers and some weeks I spent wrapped up in my cocoon of a bedroom as a solitary serious artist.

I like to celebrate Nanowrimo as a time to explore new rituals in being a writer. This upcoming month I have plotted my novel as three separate storylines in very sketchy details. My characters are defined in single phrases and as comparisons to existing celebrities, TV characters in certain episodes or arcs, or even as a time of day.

Rather than plotting every single scene on index cards* I have decided to plot tomorrow's writing at the end of today's writing. I am going to break the only rule of Nanowrimo that exists to save accelerating writers from their own inability to stay off the delete key. I will read my writing of that day once I've finished it in order to write down certain details to aid with plotting - namely where I've left threads and throwaway details that may enhance tomorrow and even next week's writing.

I'm a little worried. This is the one concrete rule I've held for three successful Nanos. It won't break any of my other rules (be true to my characters, don't talk down to the reader, at some point I have to actually like the person through which I am viewing this world, among others), but it may throw off my routine. It may cause doubt. Doubt brings with it the paralyzing uncertainty 2 minutes into a 15 minute word war that can last another precious 7 minutes, losing hundreds of words in the process. I will, in effect, pants my novel.


Wish me luck!

^If you follow this link, only one rule applies to writing. :)

*Done it. Even drunk plotted before. All I have to say about that is, I guess I get philosophical when under the influence of a good white wine. Philosophy, unfortunately, does not do a whole lot for an action packed climax, especially when I've just compared an emotional arc? The path out of hell? The antagonist's long lost daughter and/or mistress? to winter's light. Oh, maudlin, oh, hangover. Nothing says bad idea like the morning after, trying to decipher both my handwriting and genius.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Nano Prep: A Little Panic on Plot and Word Counts

If you Nano on a regular basis, you know the spiel. 50,000 words is Of Mice and Men, a quick action-oriented novella by today's standards, or one of thousands of sci-fi books your parents collected in the 70's and 80's.

Today's word counts have an interesting history based partially on being paid by the word and partially driven by consumer expectation. There's obviously many other factors behind the word count evolution, and all it means is that two out of the last three books I bought can be considered concealed weapons if they could actually fit under my coat.

A little bit of word count

Conventional wisdom and other writing articles give rough estimates of word counts thusly:

<100-100 words = drabble
100-500 words = flash fiction
100-750 words = short short fiction
<25,000 words = short story
25,000 - 40,000 words = novella
40,000-60,000 words = short novel
70,000 words = basically a normal novel
>100,000 words = burglar stunner, also called an epic (or "bargain" in terms of entertainment hours)

So that 50,000 word draft you're about to lovingly pound out in a matter of days filled with caffeine abuse, familial neglect, and passionate bouts of insomnia, is a fantastic entry to the world of long form written art.

What about panic?

The first time I participated in Nanowrimo, I had never written anything longer than a short story or a long essay. I had some idea about how to plot an entire novel because as it turns out, pre-writing and procrastination are pretty darn close. Pre-writing gets you a neat little outline, maybe a massive wall of stickies, and carefully crafted character arcs with every gel pen color you can get your hands on.

What it doesn't do is sit your butt down and get you to write.

Around day four, I learned it was all fine and well to move character B across setting C to have conflict with characters E and I, but (aside from a hard lesson in ridiculously large casts) when the words won't come, all the stickies in the world can't get you across the 50,000 word finish line.

After a precious 3000 word dry spell (approximately 2 days of not writing) I started getting that itchy feeling of staring at a great big F for failure. It's not like Nanowrimo costs you anything, but losing usually karate chops my dignity something fierce, even if we're talking about losing Stupid Ninja seven times in a row. Nanowrimo says, in many sayings stemming from founder Chris Baty and from hundreds of thousands of participants: just write.

Desperate to not lose a contest in which I held no actual personal stake and won no riches beyond a little pixel icon, I broke my story down into mini stories, or what normal writers will probably recognize as "scenes", wherein each day of typing encompassed a beginning, middle, and end, with action and reflection and more than just a little word salad. Hey, it's 50,000 words, and one of the strategies repeat winners recommend include losing your em-dash between paired words and make at least one character a stutterer.

This year I'm going to stretch my ability to focus by breaking my overall plot into chunks. A few thousand words go into the premise [from my story sentence(s)] and a few thousand words go into the opposition and how he's going to stop the protagonist. A couple dozen grand go into the main journey part of the plot and perhaps a few thousand go into the emotional connections between the protagonist and her citizens. Before you know it, I will have ripped out 50,000 words of mayhem and occasional sentences that actually make sense in English.

My strategy will look like this:

40,000 words = main plot (includes premise, protagonist and antagonist, and just a few allies and enemies along the way)
10,000 words = secondary plot takes the main stage to take me through the muddy middle
20,000 words = main emotional past issue arc (also called "How did we get here?")

If you do math moreso than me (not hard), you'll notice that adds up to more than fifty thousand. It's about 70,000, or roughly a marketable length for a real live novel. This will be my fifth year doing Nanowrimo and I thought it was time for a little extra challenge. I'm breaking out in hives even thinking about it because I have been one of those 11:59 pm word count validaters on November 30th, but if we reach for the moon, we land among the stars. Or at least, somewhere beyond where I have gone before, and that's what Nanowrimo is all about.

So to all you plotters out there, are you stickies fanatics or do you prefer twenty packs of multi-colored gel pens?

And to all you pantsers, what kind of inspiration and caffeine are you stocking up on in preparation?

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Nano Prep: One Sentence Wonders

That feeling of waiting just another second...
That picture sums up two feelings for me: October 31st, and the feeling that you really can twiddle your life away in a car.

Let's focus on October 31. Midnight. The opening nanoseconds of November 1, heralding the opening writer's block of Nanowrimo. It doesn't have to be that way, tightening your teeth and spreading your lips in a death-like grimace of agony as you realize inspiration is running circles around your ability to actually communicate in a meaningful fashion.

What does that have to do with the fact that I've put way too much mileage on my car? It's a magic number. 100,000 miles on my car is the moment I exhale and really rip loose. It means I no longer have to treat it like new, I no longer have an excuse to ignore my responsibility to change the oil, and kicking the tires means checking the air pressure with a device that gives you an actual number.

November first (or 11/1) gives me a magic number as a writer. It means I don't need to listen to that internal editor, I no longer have an excuse to procrastinate adding to a novel, and checking a word count means not closing the document until I've added more than double (or even triple) digits.

To avoid my traditional writer rictus, I like to start a story notebook before I get to the actual writing part. I'm a plotter; I plot. If you're a p-p-pantser, start with inspiration, but pick out a pretty and handy notebook for the middle. Trust me.

For those of us who are diving into the arena of idea hunting, I would say grab your butterfly nets but we are a deadly kind of lepidoptorist. We are hunting our dream moths with daggers made of pens that, rather than stab these ghostly creatures, will instead draw details on their delicate half-formed wings to weigh them down with words. What I need to do today is pin down the bare skeleton of what I think my novel may or may not be about.

I turn to Jim Butcher in many things, mostly those matters to do with solving common household issues involving vampire courts and the occasional neighborly fae, but in this post I turn to his (abandoned?) writer blog for the one sentence story skeleton.

Now all I need is something to happen, a protagonist, a goal, and an antagonist with his own opposition providing ability. Easy!

Something happening is the perfect beginning. You know that disappointed feeling when you read those books where the protagonist wakes up and there isn't anyone waving a gun in his face? I get that feeling too when I wake up on my more boring mornings. Waking up is the start of my day, but it isn't the start of my story. Some days my story doesn't start when we smell smoke, but only when we realize we're smelling smoke. Yes, I can set the scene by showing you my office and my ability to stare at a single sheet of paper for roughly five minutes before blinking back to reality and signing it, but the story isn't rolling until the fire shows up. For the purposes of Nano which can stand for either "forward momentum" or "don't look back", depending on your school of training (it's okay, I'll get to that later), the more exciting part of the story you jump into, the easier it will be to keep on plowing through that word count.

My story for Nano, I have decided, doesn't start until someone gets out of jail. Lots of cool stories start this way, like Blues Brothers, Lady Vengeance, and at least one of Donald Westlake's Dortmunder novels.

So someone gets out of jail, and my protagonist - we'll call her a fourteen year old girl for now, because I have a terrible soft spot for young adult fiction - has to pursue a goal.

Pursuing a goal is much easier to do when I know who the antagonist is. Let's say he's an elderly gentleman, gaunt, skin stretched so thin you can see the blood vessels moving in his veins, the kind of man for whom the word gaunt is a compliment. He's rich, too, and eccentric, because eccentric excuses so much. If we still used words like eccentric, we could excuse the whole cast of Jersey Shore. Or, not really, but you know what I mean.

Rich and eccentric people tend to collect things, or people tend to collect things, rich people tend to collect extravagant things, and rich and eccentric people tend to collect weird extravagant things.

He's a book collector. Nothing against book collectors, but if you're lining your library shelves with books made of human flesh, there is a small chance your invitation to my next party will get lost in the mail. He has lent out some of these books to protect them from someone who was trying to break into his library and wishes to recall them. Unfortunately, most of these people aren't willing to give up the books - how about these books, with their strange incantations, can make you a god by a certain full moon - and will instead attempt their own ceremony. The book collector wants these books back. Oh, and the books were tied to bloodlines. To return a book is to kill its former owner. There's the stake!

So what does my 14yo have to do with this? How about her older brother, hard up for cash and needing to leave the city, packs up his siblings and takes the job to retrieve the books? He has to leave the city because someone got out of jail. My something happens is now the big brother taking the job. The WHY of his job-acceptance is someone getting out of jail.

Her goal in all of this? One of the books found its way to her little brother. Now her goal is to ensure her big brother fails in his job in order for her to save her little brother's life...

This is kind of a mess of a story so far, but that's why I'm think about it in October. My sentence is several paragraphs long, but it boils down to this:

When her big brother takes a mysterious job to collect specific old volumes of a cursed book set, (my protagonist) must ensure these books stay with their current owners to save her little brother's life. But will she succeed when (creepy rich collector), mystical beings called Collectors, and her own father stand in her way?

It's still a tangled ball of noodles, but it's getting there.

What's your story skeleton?

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

I had a five part series on setting all planned out when I suddenly realized that in less than 20 days I will have to write a novel. This will be a 30 day writing extravaganza, snatching vignettes like cigarette breaks, sleeping on dictionaries, living with dialogue that will invade my every waking moment. This would be great - especially for a writer - except that I don't have a novel to write yet.


I'm going to go ahead and show you how I plan my novel and I encourage you to play along. You can join the fun at This site will connect you with nearly 200,000 other crazy writers who have all promised to attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

That's only 1667 words per day!

If you write like me (occasionally forgetting that you've promised to write a novel in November) that's 8,000 words per weekend!

Remember the word attempt?

It's insane and grueling, but best of all, you have a ready made insane posse rooting for you by your side. will also connect you with your home region so you can find groups near you to write in person (called write-ins) once or twice per week, with kick-off parties and Thank Goodness It's Over parties.

At the end, you have a pretty bad novel. It's basically word salad in some places, as your brain moves faster than your fingers and your ability to comprehend your native tongue. The brilliance of bad novels is that they give you so much to work with as we march forward to Nanoedmo (National Novel Editing Month) in March. Ahaha.

Even if you decide not to rescue your novel after November, you will have spent 30 days learning whether you work better alone or in a crowd, in silence or noise, in short sharp bursts or long marathon sessions spaced apart, with planning or with diving in head first.

Join me. It's great fun!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Chewing Scenery Pt. 2

One of my good friends described our hometown to her new college pals thusly:

"You ever drive down that long stretch of highway with mountains on your left and flat on your right, and you see that tiny little town out in the distance and you think to yourself, Man, I'm glad I don't live there.  
Well, that's my home."
Even with memories of learning to quickly turn my back to oncoming wind so that powerful blasts of sand would sting the backs of my legs instead of my face or placing my hands on the backseat of the car to absorb at least a little heat before subjecting the backs of my knees to plastic melting temperatures, I get a little something in my throat when I pass through my hometown. It's the setting that made me, and it still invokes a complex connection of emotions.

With all the heat and the dirt and the never-ending sun, it still introduced me to the sweet scent of wet dust just after rain begins to fall and the sight of the desert bursting into color as long dormant plants taste the smallest amount of water.

Obviously, the settings that make us affect our feelings, but unless you're writing a memoir, you want your setting to affect your readers' feelings. In order to pull your audience's strings, you'll have to speak through your characters to tell them what to feel.

This telling readers what to feel goes hand-in-hand with show, don't tell. Remember way back when someone first told you to show, don't tell? Remember that confused feeling (or if you are like me, that bullheaded I know better feeling...yeah, still trying to outgrow that one) deep in your chest resulting from the kid's book you were reading at the time? The character is angry. The author writes, Sara is angry. You know, Sara is probably angry. But what kind of spiritual fulfillment am I getting from a story that doesn't take the time to describe the socioeconomic plight of low class space jumper engineers who are angry because they can't find their alien six-eyed cat and their boss just nixed overtime citing budget concerns?

This all has to do with scenery, just bear with me.

If she is angry, really pissed off, everything will compound that anger. The door will stick, the lights will flicker and spark that headache into a full blown migraine, the shoes squeaking on the floor will put her one step away from psychotic break. You remember those days when you're late on a deadline and the mail server goes down? Obviously, it's just to inconvenience you. But it's a part of your setting (for the purposes of this example, you, like me, work in a cube farm and suffer from a dangerous co-dependency on technology stuck somewhere between the late nineties and early oughts, you know, before DSL really took off and when IT guys coined the fix-all, "Have you tried restarting it?"). All those little things that never mattered before become a symbiotic part of your emotional state.

Clive Barker's Coldheart Canyon is one of those odd horror novels that didn't really scare me after I put it down. I could walk away from it; I could sleep easy at night. When I was reading it, however, the ever changing mosaic and the desert wild with the perverted creatures running rampant made my breathe hold in my lungs, just in case I attracted their attention before my eyes could turn away from the page.

Think of the setting. It's a horror novel tied to the past of Hollywood opulence of the 1920's or so and the Hollywood opulence of today. It's tied to the depravity of both eras, and a sense of richness that is best viewed through the sepia toned nostalgia lenses. Once Barker has you thinking about the suits and the gowns and the men and the women, he turns it all around until you get peacock bodied human headed monsters roaming the canyon, looking for humans to rape. So...horror.

Coldheart Canyon could have been a romance - take away the monsters and the horror bit, right? Not quite. How far does the desert stretch in a romance? Will it reach out to the horizon without a soul in sight? Will it sear the flesh from your arms and burn your eyes with mirages? Will the house turn cold and hidden in the dark, with twists and turns meant for trapping you with the bad things hot at your heels?

In a romance, the desert will be cool, just beginning to heat up. Romance in the desert happens in the early morning, I think, or late at night when the sky has bloomed with stars. If you are reading something that requires a sense of "all will be well" by the end, the ground beneath your character's feet might crumble and the weather will turn against him, but something in the scenery will still signal to the reader that comfort is soon at hand.

The house will stand. The moon will rise, the forest will be curiously devoid of bears, except from a safe distance, the bad guy will be safely defeated (or a rake in disguise who can be cured with magic virgin sex, if you are writing a romance circa Harlequin eighties style, but that's a discussion for another time).

How does your setting affect your character? How does your character's mood affect our perception of the setting?

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Chewing Scenery Pt. 1

When I was in eighth grade, I had one of the best history teachers. Unlike my all-time favorite history teacher who had in fact lived through most of the timeline his particular course covered (US History, he remembered when Christmas lights came into vogue), I learned an incredible writing lesson from this guy: setting makes the story.

He didn't use the word setting, of course, this being a history class, but he made the point several times. Why did certain societies flourish when parked on fertile ground? Well, they could grow enough to feed their people and didn't have to rely on trade for certain necessities. Why did some people fall to cannibalism? They lived on an island and after removing access to fertile fishing grounds, they had no one but themselves for sustenance. Who needs a navy if you are entirely landlocked, how do you feed 200,000 bodies in the dead of winter with no easy preservation methods for food storage, isn't it a bad idea to split up in a haunted house?

The story I tell in a ravaged apocalyptic city is quite different from the one I tell in an apocalyptic overgrown forest. In the city you are contending with other survivors, limited canned goods and medicine, feral children and animals, painful memories, and dangerously unstable structures. In the forest you are dealing with wild animals who no longer feel the need to allow their fear of you to stand in the way of a full belly, unfamiliar landscape, roving bandits, sudden drops in the ground and a lack of easy access and preserved food as well as a distinct lack of medical care.

Sometimes I use a certain setting because I am fascinated with the voice of the people who live there. The voice of a character who lives in a small town is quite different from one who lives in a city, is different from one who lives in a house, on the street, in an apartment, in the basement, under the bed. The setting guides the plot by boxing in my possibilities, especially given the cardinal rule of writing (and the only one I am unwilling to break) that I should never stretch the reader's ability to suspend disbelief beyond the breaking point. Between the voice and the plot, the setting builds the structure of my story in immutable ways. If you think of a story as an equation, the setting is not a variable like a character or a goal, but it is the rules of order in which you can perform the functions necessary to solve the equation. Remember, solve the bit in the parentheses, then multiply before addition and subtraction. Those invisible rules are the setting.

The invisible rules of my setting creates this logical plot flow for my character in my current short story: If she lives in the small town during winter, she must contend with isolation and a limited suspect pool, which most likely means someone she knows is the killer. What does that kind of knowledge do to my character? Ah, conflict!

Setting makes it possible.

Once you have the setting that makes your story's voice sing and your plot tie itself with nearly no effort on your part - ahaha, but this is writing. Once you have the setting and have mopped the blood from your forehead, examine the setting.

Stress test.

How much of your setting are you using?

Inception, a little flick you may have heard of (personal Inception watch count as of this post: 36), uses the setting to the point where the people are tension setters (projections who can become violent at a moment's notice) and settings within settings affect the plot and the how-the-hell-will-he-solve-that-puzzle-now rising tension. When Yusuf takes the van off the bridge, Arthur loses gravity and has to create his own drop to wake up his fellow mind-heisters exactly on time. Gray urban landscape filled with gunmen morphs into opulent amber hotel halls evolves into labyrinthine snow covered forest trails surrounding an ominous compound. your setting breaking a sweat yet? Work it, baby!

Monday, 3 October 2011

My Mirror's Eyeballs

Sometimes I realize that I never fully outgrew a fear of the dark, in the way I assume every clanking pipe is the serial killer standing over my bed breathing awkwardly behind his mask. Also in the way I sometimes turn on the light in the wee hours just to make sure something isn't hiding

a.) in the toilet
b.) behind the shower curtain
c.) behind the door

This post is going to give me a whole new set of phobias! I already have issues with mirrors, whether it's bad luck to be caught between two of them, or whether the mirror people are waiting for you to let your guard down so they can steal your body. Now, I can wonder whether the mirror secretly has eyeballs that blink wetly when I'm not looking.

Taking the title less literally, I mean to say that sometimes when I'm stuck on a character's point of view, backstory, or just the way I have presented her in my work so far, I find it helpful to look at her through another character's eyes. What does this mean for my work?

It just means listening to another person doing the talking. All I need is a new voice, a new backstory, a new facet of the cast and an entirely new way of viewing the world I have created. Easy!

For those of you sinners who read fanfiction (to which I have already lost three hours of my life while trying to write something meaningful today) you will understand the inherent power and fascination in taking a momentary throwaway sentence and spinning it into a thousand words of torrid romance, aching lost chance, or horrifying murder. Throughout the wandering bridge of the fanfiction piece in the greater song of the canon work to which it belongs, you see the main characters moving freely, tangentially, or removed entirely from the world which molds itself around them in the original piece.

[A vocabulary note: Bridge - that minor chord part of the song that connects the last verse with the chorus. Canon - the part of the body of work that the original author and (usually) intellectual property owner has created (aka Word of God).]

For those of you blessed few who don't read fanfiction, you can take a single sentence in your work - best if it's a line you didn't expect to write - and expound at length. I have two characters who interact at some point with my main character and I had created them to have a conversation about love. My short story is about love, and cloning, and murder, and terrible tragedy that befalls those bound to the slim mercy of they who refuse to exercise the responsibility that has ensnared them. Anyway, the main character doesn't know what love is, doesn't know how to love, and doesn't realize she isn't in love. She just thinks she is. The two characters she talks to are in love. Madly, deeply, at great length and for the longest time they live for each other. They are truly happiest when thinking of that someone else other than themselves.

Once I realized that, I saw that they would view my character in a certain light. They are old, she is young. They have been happily together for ages, she comes from a home where cold silence is as familiar as screaming violence in only the way two people who are miserably tied together can manage.

Suddenly, my quite earnest police officer who just wants to be loved is a cold, narcissistic, young woman who can't understand why the things she deserves aren't magically appearing before her.

Without that extra set of eyes, I would have a story of someone who never let go of the kind of love that guides your gel pen into circling his initials with glittery hearts and who views another moving on with his life as a personal slight. She would still come off as a brat, but now she is a brat with a reason. Just look at her home life - which I hadn't considered because I saw her world through her eyes. She didn't see how miserable her parents were, only that she wasn't trying hard enough, wasn't good enough, had to do better and was always falling behind.

Thank you, mirror eyeballs, for giving my who a why of her very own.

Who are your mirror eyeballs in your latest work? Anyone I know?

Introduce them.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Write to Find Yourself (seriously)

Remember when we thought about who we were? For some, I bet that was five minutes ago. For others, I refer to my post on thinking about whether you are a pantser or plotter, among other things. If you plot, you might sneer at pantsers, and if you (are a) pants(er), you might sneer at plotters.

The plotters among us say, how do you know where you are going? How do you sustain yourselves? Why do you think "Rocks fall, everybody dies" is a legitimate literary ending?

The pantsers will say, where is your spark? Where is your fire? If you color by the numbers, how do you splatter art onto your pages?

Here's the thing.

Plotters know even if they diagram every sentence before beginning, their work will at some point surprise and delight them, and that the greatest surprise will find them on the very last page.

Pantsers know even if they are surprised and delighted at every turn, the true machination of their work will reveal itself on the very last page.

We should all be surprised by our writing, and in order to be surprised, we should strive to ask questions to which we don't yet know the answer.

Above all else we write. Write to discover. Write to delight. Write to surprise. Write now.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

First Lines Are Not Your Antagonist

[It is hard to know whether war or peace makes the greater changes in our vocabularies, both of the tongue and of the spirit.
~ MFK Fisher, How to Cook a Wolf, Revised Edition
It was mid-April when I got home from the offshore rig and discovered my good friend Leonard Pine had lost his job bouncing drunks at the Hot Cat Club because, in a moment of anger, when he had a bad ass on the ground out back of the place, he'd flopped his tool and pissed on the rowdy's head. 
~ Joe R Lansdale, Bad Chili
If you're listening to this I'm dead. 
~ Charlie Huston, My Dead Body
Jen Wu is a day Master Li sets aside for my literary endeavors, and I was pleased that it was cold and rainy and fit for little else than splashing ink around. 
~ Barry Hughart, The Story of the Stone

Have you heard this one before?

Hook your reader with the first line!
~ Darn near any writing teacher I have ever had

Sure, you can hook me with that first line, but then you have to reel me in. The thing about those first lines I quoted above is that they all display the voice of the novel they are in, they all (however delicately) take the foot off the brake and move it toward the accelerator, and they all make you ask.

The best first lines are the kind you actually see when you re-read the book. If the first line is so great, you won't even notice it on the first time through because it walks up behind you, wraps its arm around your shoulders and gently steers you downhill so convincingly you don't realize you're running until the last page.

We spend anywhere from 60-97% (math, not my strong suit) of our first writing session staring at the page, thinking up a brilliant first line. Unfortunately, if your book is 70,000 words long and your first sentence is 10 words, you have spent an insane amount of time on 0.00014% (I used a calculator) of your novel. Remember, your first line reels me in, so that remaining 99.99986% had better have a compelling voice, kick-ass characters, an epiphany or at least a red hot action scene and a plot that makes me turn the page.

Doesn't it make more sense to spend all that panic time developing your novel instead of trying to phrase the first handful of words so perfectly a certified saint would sin at first sight? (Also, alliteration? A little overrated.)

Let's go back to:

, and they all make you ask. 
~ Someone just discovered the blockquote button, seriously, how fun is this?
One of the most valuable pieces of information I have read from an editor is to keep the reader asking questions. (If you have read this too and actually remember the source material, please leave a comment. It's been years since I saw this but it obviously left a mark.) Make the reader ask a question with the first line - the reader has to keep reading to answer that question. Make the reader ask two questions on the first page, and every time you answer a question, make the reader ask another.


The reason we seek to satiate our curiosity is because of that marvelous feeling that satiety brings. If you don't satiate my curiosity in the first book of your series to a high enough degree, I'm not actually going to continue on to the second book. I have read number one volumes that felt like half a book. I have read closed series that answered every important hanging thread and guaranteed that I will come back for more. See My Dead Body above, and my purchase of Sleepless after I finished re-reading the entire Joe Pitt series (it's the kind of thing that requires re-enjoying).

Does that mean you need to spend 0.00014% of your time on the first line? No. You have to set up a question, establish a voice, and shift your heel off the pedal all in one sentence. On the other hand, that's what editing is for.

If you're really stuck on your first line and you can feel your writing time trickling through the blanks in your mind, start in the middle. Start in the end. Start somewhere. Just make sure you start writing now.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Do You Know What Your Protagonist Is Doing Right Now?

I wanted to talk about your hero but if you're like me, you may not know who that is yet. If you have a story and a character, you probably have a protagonist.

What's the difference between a protagonist and a hero?

 The hero solves the problem. The hero saves the day. The hero defeats the antagonist. The hero gets the girl or boy or saves a marriage or bonds with the kid or almost always walks off into the sunset (or um, dies trying).

 The protagonist tells the story.

 In order for this to happen, the protagonist must have a story to tell, a reason to be in the story, and most importantly, a voice.

But wait! you say. The antagonist stands in the way of the protagonist! I never said your hero and your protagonist couldn't be the same person. If you just so happen to have a protagonist and a hero who are not the same person in the same story, it helps tons if your antagonist stands in the way of both of them. That means either the protagonist and the hero want the same thing, or the antagonist stands in the way of two people or your story has an antagonist and an enemy of the hero.

Your protagonist has a unique voice, a strong background, witty dialogue, and an unavoidable connection to the hero. Does your protagonist have a story?

(Always remember that a story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.)

The story structure can be fulfilled by plot - plot being where things happen - but it can also be fulfilled by character development. Plot has a nasty tendency to happen to heroes (and anti-heroes which we'll get to later, when I can I finish rolling my eyes at them...still rolling); character development happens to protagonists. If your protagonist doesn't develop in some way throughout the story, then in the Cadillac of writing that is your story, your protagonist is the hood ornament.

Writer, please!

Your hood ornament should be the color of the walls in the den where the murder took place, not your freaking protagonist.

Ever see The Usual Suspects? It totally looks like Kevin Spacey is a protagonist, and one of the dull ones who sort of exists in a nebulous wordspace (or screenspace in this case) until the end when it's revealed that he's - I really have no idea if you've seen the movie or not. Basically, he's removed from the action. He tells the story, so he's the protagonist. Not even a very interesting one. The thing is, all is forgiven or better yet, ignored, because his story is just so damn compelling that we are sucked in to the plot. If ever you are tempted to use your protagonist as a story telling device rather than a character in her own right, just remember that The Usual Suspects did it first (or at the very least, before you) so don't rest on your laurels. Build your protagonist. Make him fight, make her choose, make him defeat the antagonist and make me cheer by the time he does it.

So what's your protagonist's story?

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Making It Worthy Expansion Pack

Last time we talked about making it worthy. Actually, all I said was to make it worthy and why. Your ending needs to leave the reader not with a bang, a whimper, an oomph or an oops, but an exhalation. How do you do that? Remember, I'm still working on my ending. I'm going to direct you to a couple of guys who have experience with endings and endings that leave the audience feeling fulfilled in a medium famous for making you want your money back: movies.

Terry Rossio is one part of a hit making team that brought you Pirates of the Caribbean and Treasure Planet (and a dozen more) and has a column that is as entertaining as it is informative. Though only one (okay, more than one) of the steps listed deal with endings and what makes a story ensnare an audience, the whole column is worth a read. So's the backmatter.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Your Pen On This Page

We haven't begun yet.

I know, it's kind of a letdown.

Here's the thing. Last post, I asked who are you? I didn't ask who am I because I already know who I am. More importantly I know how I write. I am an architect to an almost extreme degree. I'm not as nuts as some, but I have written pieces that were less of a creative torrential river and more of a constructed aqueduct. Before I begin, I know where I'm going and before that first sentence lands on my word processor (or smartphone as the case may be, or even going old school, on that piece of once living organism) I know where I am going to stop. I even have a pretty good idea about how to get there, which at times seems like more an added bonus than a testament to my creative rigor.

I'm working on something right now. It is not, in fact, a semi autobiographical meta zombie piece, but more of a young adult western horror self help kind of thing. When I say working on, I don't mean actually writing. Not yet. I'm not ready for that first sentence yet. I don't know where I'm going.

The best way to maintain that locomotive like creative drive through an entire novel, short story, play, or conspiracy theory is to know where you are going. Make it good. Make it worthy.

If it's good, you'll want to see it so much that not only will you power through to the end but that passion and tension will tug the reader along making her think Just one more page. Remember, whatever you make yourself feel while writing your piece will transfer to the reader. Your passion, your fear, your grief, your surprise. You hold all the cards when writing, so whatever emotion you feel will be felt threefold by the reader, as long as you've done the groundwork. We'll talk about groundwork later.

Thinking of an ending that's good is halfway to making an ending that's worthy. Worthy means your hero has been tested. Worthy means your hero's reward was earned and your reader can finally let out the breathe he held on page one. Worthy means your reader says, "I have to read that again!" and more importantly, "I want more."

I'm still thinking on my ending. Have you found yours?

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Whooooooooo are you?

Let me take off these sunglasses (so I can put them back on again in a minute).

One of the best parts about becoming a hardcore writer is the bit where you get to be every kind of writer all at once. You get to be a pantser, you get to be a plotter. You have days where you write by the seat of your pants, every next sentence a complete mystery until it falls from your fingertips. You have those days where you've plotted every nuance and every emotional subtlety, building your story like a home to welcome the reader if only he or she will open the door and step inside.

Becoming is about learning, and becoming a hardcore writer is about learning who you are as a writer. When you have a better grasp of how you write, you will have a better grasp of what tools help you write. For some of you, you will live and die by whether Post-it Notes have gone on sale before your next writing boom. Some of you will swear by colored pencils. Personally, you will take my brightly colored notebooks and Sarasa pens from my cold, dead, disembodied hands. Part of writing will become ritual, the hat, the gloves, the gin that makes your muse sit up and speak, and part will require ritual: turning off your internet, shutting your door, sitting quietly and clicking the pen or opening a blank document. Ordering a coffee before finding a seat. Spreading out your beach blanket before pulling a flask and netbook out of your tote. Like brushing your teeth before you go to bed or clicking your heels three times and saying the magic words, the rituals will put you in that mystical writer mindset. It doesn't mean it will always work.

Don't fall prey to the "grass is greener" mentality. I can heartily recommend following your own path because you will learn which styles work best for you. No one knows you better than you, not even your mother (hi, mom, it's true), and remember, you don't know anyone better than they know themselves. What works for you may not work for someone else. You can boggle and be jealous and be joyous and on occasion arrogant as you follow the common lifecycle of the writer which goes a little something like -

First you see another writer who is rich and famous and has a crap ton of titles under her belt.

Your friend completes nine stories in the time it takes you to complete one.

You finish a novel and sell it on the first try.

You know you are better than the award winner, even though your work wasn't nominated.

Hey, I never said the lifecycle rolled linearly. I did start a phrase with "first" but "last" can precede any of the other three statements. Maybe the phrase starting with "first" is more of an ongoing philosophy than a point on a lifecycle.

My point is, we are becoming and therefore we are learning what works for us and we are most importantly writing.

Haha, I lied. I don't even have sunglasses.

Monday, 12 September 2011

A Meditative Exercise

This blog is all about getting started. It's about that first roughest toughest draft, and it's about you and me becoming hardcore writers. Not about being, but becoming. And that's way more fun.

With that in mind, let's revisit the first post and the true meaning of Christmas. I mean, your butt being in this chair.

You may ask which chair, what chair, whose chair?

That's a straightforward line of questioning with a trick answer. You see, your chair is anywhere you are. Generally speaking, so is your butt. Your chair is where you write and to become a hardcore writer (or just a regular old writer in general) you must always have your butt in this chair. You are always a writer. It's like a crown you can't take off except that writers don't, as a general rule, make nearly as much as kings. Nor do they have to put up with as many assassination attempts, so it works out.

I assume you're reading this on your computer. Open a word document and write for five minutes. Your butt is in this chair, right?

Maybe you're reading this on your e-reader on your morning commute. Take a couple minutes to surreptitiously observe a fellow passenger. Try to pick one who doesn't look like he or she will shank you if you make eye contact. Memorize, not in images, but in words. When you get a chance, write down what you saw. Now make sense of it. Was she a punk rock artist? A nurse, a death-dealer, a dragon-slayer? Was he an accountant, a king-maker, a disowned son on his way to seek his inheritance from the family who tossed him out? Wherever you're going, your butt is in this chair.

If you are reading this on your smartphone in the grocery store, or next to your too loud neighbors (as I am writing this on my smartphone, next to my too loud neighbors) listen. That's dialogue you hear. When you get to a stopping point, write down what you remember. You're studying natural speech patterns and these lovely people are helping you for free.

Your butt. This chair.


Friday, 9 September 2011

Put Your Key in the Ignition

Let's talk about not writing.

I had the remarkable opportunity to take a promotion of sorts some time ago and I thought to myself that the extra cash would encourage me to write more, and to write the kinds of things I wanted to write - you know, those introspective meta science fiction exploratory zombie autobiography pieces that don't quite make as much on the open market as one would hope. I didn't contend with the days suddenly stretching from a reliable 8.5 hours to the new normal 9.5-10 and the occasional 12. This wasn't too different from my previous position as an hourly wage rockstar (it just sounds so much better than monkey) except that I now somehow made less, pay raise and all. Yes, I had joined the ranks of the disgruntled salaried types. Instead of spending my newfound wealth or lazing away my evenings typing madly and contemplating growing a beard as all respectable novelists do (although as a woman I was unsure how to about doing so and at times wished I had a lady writing mentor who could explain how I could radically change my appearance to signify my status as a serious writer without giving up either clean laundry or bathing) I found myself sitting at my kitchen table, staring at the wall. I was too exhausted to even move my eyeballs the four inches to the right in order to stare out the window instead.

I rapidly turned into a raging ball of sunshine so unfathomably furious that my parents stopped calling me. My friends only communicated through wall posts on Facebook and clerks would hand back my change without touching my flesh so as to avoid being sucked in to the miasma of despair that had overcome my aura. Also, I sucked pretty hard at my new position and failure tends to increase my stress. End result: no writing. I even dropped out of my writing group as I was no longer fit for human consumption.

A year before taking the new position, I lived in a different city with a different job and the same name. False aliases are a little harder to manage than you'd think. But I digress. My new year's resolution was to write every day and I made it to April before I got sucked into a toxic social situation that sucked out my will to write.

These two events, though a year apart, taught me something very valuable.

Stress is my nonstarter. When we stare at that blank page, we think of writer's block or too many tangled ideas as the culprits responsible for our inability to click the pen or do more than press the space bar. It's easier to blame these internal nonstarters. If it's internal, we can control it. We can bribe our muses. We can surf the Internet for inspiration. We can thumb through a dictionary or thesaurus. It's much more difficult to quit a stressful job or or ship your family to a friend's house for a week. And anyway, you want to stay on your friend's Christmas list and more importantly, off their hit list.

If our nonstarters are external, it doesn't mean we can't control them. At the very least we can mitigate their effects. My stepping down was an extreme move and an extremely necessary one. For those who can't step away from their position or their stressor, another method would have been working up to the thirty minutes I used to spend each night on writing. Five minutes isn't too much to ask and it nets me about 300 words. That's 300 more than I would have just staring at the wall. Yoga or pilates can be calming but if it's the anonymous group class experience you crave (as I discovered was more important than learning to breathe with my ankles next to my diaphram) you can take a group community college class to clear your mind of your stressor and give your overactive inner control freak a new focus.

What, besides stress, is your external nonstarter?

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Totally Over Getting Started

While the hardest part of writing for some is getting started, eventually we catch hold of the knack to put one word down after the other. Then the quandry evolves into a different flavor of the same dilemma but one that has the same solution - putting one word down after the other, also known as the keep going issue.

The problem with writing is thinking "This is the the shit!" then about five seconds later thinking "This is shit!"

While livejournal user Synecdochic created this list for fanfiction (warning: mentions of sex), it works pretty well for any kind of fiction. By works pretty well, I mean that it is a neato list of prompts to keep in mind while you are writing and especially if you think you are heading from "the shit" to "shit". Next time you are writing - shortly after you've begun, or maybe around chapter five, try:

29. The use of negative space -- things that are clearly there (in the author's concept of the characters, their history, their backstory, events that have gone on, etc) but are built by showing the secondary influences and leaving the reader to slowly realize.

Or just examine your earlier bits and ask if you've shown the thing or all the pieces around the thing. Which one would keep you reading, looking for that next elusive clue?

Saturday, 3 September 2011

The Meaning of Your Butt in This Chair

The point of this blog is to write now.

One of the most important lectures I got in college took place during the first day of what I had assumed to be an otherwise forgettable sociology course, sitting between my roommate and a couple of friends. The lecturer drew this on the board:

And he said, "This is only a chair because we say so. We have agreed it is a chair. Even without me telling you this is a chair, we're all thinking: That's a chair."

He went on, "When I say chair, you're thinking of this chair." He then erased the chair. "Now when I say chair, what are you thinking?"

The societal agreement of the metaphorical concept of chair only works because of the sheer proliferation of chairs and our immediate recognition of the utter chairness of a simple line drawing. Armchair, lawn chair, folding chair, chair at the cafe, chair at the library, school chair, church pew, park bench, bus stop - we're getting a little far from "chair" but I think you can see where I'm going with this when I say - chair - and maybe some of you are thinking about the death of the author on a semiotic level and wondering what your readers are really seeing when you write "chair" - is it the one in their childhood bedroom or the one they sat on in the hospital waiting room or the one in your detective's office - just how much control do you have of your language from your pen to their eyes? But. I digress.

When I say chair and you read chair we only agree on the general concept of chair but in fact, I am saying your chair. I am also saying your butt and by your butt I refer, of course, to the general concept of you.

Your chair is where you are right now. You are in this chair. Not my chair, your chair. There is no chair. There is always a chair. Wherein you are X and your butt is subset Y and this chair is N and time is now - or to put it another way:

Or to put it another way:

Your butt + this chair = write now.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone